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Islington child abuse scandal: The struggle to access support services

PUBLISHED: 13:51 05 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:25 07 August 2019

Islington Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

Islington Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

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An Islington child abuse survivor has been left unable to access support services set up by the council two years ago - because she cannot secure care for her severely disabled son.

Yewande Ogunnaike.Yewande Ogunnaike.

Yewande Ogunnaike is the second person in a month to tell the Gazette the dedicated trauma service was out of reach, after Islington Survivors Network (ISN) founder Liz Davies pointed out many victims have left the borough.

Yewande, 55, is one of scores of people known to ISN who endured horrific sexual and physical abuse at Islington-run care homes in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Now as she battles to access the help she desperately needs to deal with what happened to her, Yewande - who has waived her anonymity to tell her story - says she feels "like a bird that has had her wings clipped".

It comes as Dr Davies, the social worker who blew the whistle on the scandal in 1992, criticised the council again for a lack of movement in its redress scheme.

Dr Liz Davies, founder of the Islington Survivors Network. Picture: Ken MearsDr Liz Davies, founder of the Islington Survivors Network. Picture: Ken Mears

No one has received a payout since the council pledged to compensate victims in 2017, although prior to that successful claims had totalled £2.1million. Last month council leader Cllr Richard Watts said cash had been put aside and that the town hall was working on a "legally complex" financial support scheme.

"I was subjected to a paedophile ring at Glenham in Hampshire," said Yewande, who now lives in Bermondsey.

"Children were f**king each other and the staff were f**king all of us.

"I remember going up to staff aged seven to 10 and they were giving me pills and I said: 'What are these for?' and they said: 'You wet the bed.' They were absolutely not to stop me wetting the bed. They were for putting me to sleep. I was there for five years."

Yewande also had spells in a home in Sheringham Road, Holloway, and Rycroft in Essex, before going back to Glenham and then to another in Highbury Crescent.

She remembers little from her childhood and has been sexually abused throughout her life.

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As well as promising a redress scheme, Islington Council said it would offer survivors access to psychological support through a trauma sevice, as well as help with housing and benefits.

The pledges came at a town hall meeting in November 2017, at which it finally admitted liability for what went on inside its homes, although it has never accepted the belief of Dr Davies that the abuse was systematic, organised and covered up.

Of her son, Yewande explained: "He was born with Down's syndrome, he's autistic, he's legally blind, he's epileptic, he's deaf, he has double incontinence and eczema and asthma.

"I moved to Southwark because of domestic violence and I had a breakdown in 2011. My son went into care because he wasn't able to manage with low level support. I volunteered for it."

Later it was decided her son would have two 24-hour carers and Yewande was happy with the care provided by an agency, but when that went bankrupt things took a turn.

The next agency only provided one carer, and then two months ago they left. The lack of care also meant she almost missed the birth of her first grandchild in the States last month, though she was able to find respite care days before she flew out.

Yewande lays the blame for her situation completely at the door of Islington Council. "Absolutely everything is because of what happened to me in care homes," she said. "I am an artist, I write and can sing. I could have had a life and opportunities. I have a degree in social science. But I feel like a bird that has had their wings clipped.

"I was the responsibility of Islington Council. When I did go to ask for help in my early 20s they said they couldn't help me and they had lost my file."

Southwark Council's children's chief Cllr Jasmine Ali said she sympathised greatly with Yewande's situation.

She added: "I want to reassure her we remain committed to finding a solution to the ongoing issues.

"I understand a number of alternate solutions have been offered to bring more stability to the care provided but unfortunately these have been refused. Officers will continue to work with Ms Ogunnaike to try to agree a way forward."

An Islington Council spokesperson said: "We're very sorry for our failure to protect vulnerable children in our care homes in the past.

"The council today is a very different organisation, and protecting children from harm is our top priority."

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